Covering a new kind of war

Shelly Palmer, a witty and astute observer of all things digital, issues a warning about cyber attacks against governments and corporations. And the main ‘bad guy” is not surprising to anyone who pays attention to such things: Cyber war 1.0: China vs The USA … We’re in trouble!

The issue of a pending cyber war is not new. (See Vanity Fair A Declaration of Cyber-War from a year ago. Or CYBER WAR! from 2003 by Frontline.)

Getting past the hysteria of what it all means, however is a task for responsible journalism. Loads of people from Pres. Obama to local officials are screaming that cyber war is coming and something needs to be done. But, as Wired puts it, is it over-hyped? (Wired Opinion: Cyberwar Is the New Yellowcake)

There is no doubt that many of the hacks against governments and industries are coming from China. As Palmer asks, is it being done at the direction of the Chinese government?

Although the Chinese government denies any formal ties to any hacker groups, most experts agree that the level of sophistication demonstrated by Chinese hackers betrays that denial. It would surprise no one to learn that these groups are funded and trained by a government that can conscript its best and brightest citizens.

And can the United States stand up to these attacks?

Where does our “federal” cyber-army come from? Obviously, municipal agencies and the military do not have the kind of HR budgets, nor stock incentive plans that high-tech companies are famous for.

Let’s review. I’ve got Chinese hackers, who are government-sponsored, highly paid (in relative terms) and fully incentivized vs. American civil servants, whose digital skill sets perfectly positioned them for government work.

We’re doomed. What do I mean by doomed? You know, Armageddon, end-of-days, extinction level event doomed.

A bit hysterical but a sentiment heard often. The question becomes how do main-stream media people report the day-to-day efforts to fight back against the hackers.

And the answer too often is they don’t.

Only when a new book comes out or when a digital expert raises a major warning with a pithy phrase do we see a story about cyber attacks. (Or when Anonymous hacks or disrupts a website.)

Like good political and economic reporting, cyber awareness reporting needs to look at the day-to-day and the process. And all the players. But too often the budgets at local media outlets don’t allow for it and too many of the major outlets are too wrapped up in the latest trend.

There is some good reporting done on this topic but not enough to seriously educate the public. Awareness of a danger is a good thing. Sporadic reporting of a hot topic, however, leads to (a form of) panic and too often bad policy.

Oh, and for reporters, this is another great opportunity to show how events and players all the way across the globe can affect what happens in every city and town in the United States.

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Filed under China, Connections, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

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